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Sustainability has been a popular topic lately, and for obvious reasons. In 2010, the USDA estimated food waste in the US to be 31%. In an effort to reduce food loss and waste in the US, the USDA, FDA, and EPA entered into a formal agreement in 2018 under the Winning on Reducing Food Waste Initiative. Under this agreement, these agencies committed to encouraging reductions in food waste through research, community investments, and several other initiatives. Although the problem of food waste is being tackled on a federal level, there are also things that we, the consumers, can do at home to lessen our food waste as well.

Besides contributing to food waste, throwing out groceries is expensive and can add up very quickly. There have been a number of times that I have spent a significant amount of money on produce, forgotten about it within a few days, and been forced to throw it away a few weeks later. Not only is this a waste of food, but it’s a waste of money, and always feels like an awful thing to have to do.

Sometimes it feels impossible to avoid throwing out food completely, but there are still things we can do to limit our food waste as much as possible. Below is a list of tips to help reduce, if not eliminate, food waste in our kitchens.

Use the front of the fridge

Storing foods that are closest to spoiling in the front of your refrigerator ensures that they are the first thing you see when you open the door. This will help to avoid pushing produce to the back of the refrigerator and forgetting about it for weeks.

Meal plan

Taking the time to meal plan while taking into account the perishable ingredients that you currently have on-hand may help to reduce the amount of food that you end up throwing away. Sometimes it’s hard to come up with creative recipes that use the ingredients that you already have, but there are ways around this.

  1. Google recipes. There are countless recipes out there that are free and easy to prepare.

  2. Use a meal planning website. Websites such as Big Oven allow you to type in the ingredients that you have on hand. The website will then provide several recipes that contain those ingredients. For example, if I type in chicken breast, zucchini, and spinach I find a recipe for tortellini soup with roasted chicken, zucchini, and spinach in just seconds.

Utilize your freezer

Freezing foods that you won’t use by the expiration date prolongs their shelf-life. If they are single ingredients such as strawberries or spinach, freeze these products and use them in a smoothie at a later date. Similarly, if there is a meal that you think may go to waste such as a large pot of chili, consider portioning out the food and freezing it for lunches later that month.

Bring it back to the basics

Having non-perishable basics in your pantry that are easy to pair with perishable foods makes putting a meal together a little bit easier. For example, pasta, rice, and quinoa are foods that have a long shelf life and can be paired with almost anything.

If it’s spoiled, throw it out

It’s important to throw away anything that’s spoiled. Although the goal should be to reduce food waste, never eat food that may cause you to become sick. If your perishable foods are soggy, moldy, discolored, or smell abnormal, they may contain harmful pathogens and should be thrown out, not eaten.

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